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ACTION MAN

Like P.E. class on steroids

December 27, 2007|Liam Gowing

AS the ball bounced off my teammate and into the air, I saw my moment. Visualizing a heroic opportunity to turn things around for the dodgeball team to which I'd been assigned -- Juicy Seats, which was then 0 for 3 -- I went for it. And bobbled the ball back into the air. Not once. Not twice. But thrice.

Seeing this juggling-clown act, 39-year-old team captain Chris Collins came to my rescue. But consumed with catching the evil red orb, I deflected his would-be catch to the ground. And so, per the unforgiving rules of the game, Juicy Seats lost three players instead of just one. I wasn't sure which was worse: the cackle from the rival team -- Eyeballed Your Mother -- or the look from Collins.

It wasn't supposed to be like this.

"Avoid the hard-core Hasselhoff Knights League on Wednesdays," L.A. Dodgeball Society enthusiast Deborah Park had told me. "Try the Stay Puft Marshmallow League on Mondays. They play with 'no sting' balls and it's totally relaxed."

Poppycock.

The second I arrived at the Hollywood Rec Center, an old-fashioned gym redolent of grade-school P.E., I knew the competition would be fierce. Sure, the twenty- and thirtysomething competitors wore headbands and ironic rock T-shirts; some even had mustaches. But they were overwhelmingly men -- a bad sign for a 4-year-old coed league on the back end of a comfortable nine-week season. And as L.A. Dodgeball Society founder Michael Costanza outlined the rules of league play -- with two teams of up to 20 each, facing off in as many eight-ball player-elimination games as they can squeeze into a 55-minute period -- they all did something frighteningly unironic: They stretched.

So when I virtually handed my teammates their fourth consecutive loss, there was only one thing to do: Help them win five straight games in 20 minutes.

Unbelievably, my team -- which included a core group of acquaintances and an ad hoc mix of total strangers -- rallied and worked together like a finely oiled machine, sharing stray balls, coordinating our targets and taunting our rivals into predictable, catchable throws. Finally getting into dodgeball's merciless rhythm, I snatched two in a row, benching a pair of Eyeballed's most fearsome players and redeeming myself once and for all. And clenching the ninth, tie-breaking game as the final seconds ticked off the clock, Juicy Seats achieved a classic come-from-behind, underdog victory to rival "Caddyshack," "Meatballs" or even -- dare I say it? -- "Dodgeball."

As my teammates exchanged incredulous smiles and high-fives, the scent of victory was all around us. It smelled like sweat.

-- Liam.Gowing@latimes.com

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L.A. DODGEBALL SOCIETY

WHERE: Hollywood Recreation Center, 1122 Cole Ave.

WHEN: 8 to 10 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays (Stay Puft Marshmallow League); 8 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays (Hasselhoff Knights League); 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sundays (open gym)

PRICE: $50 per season, $5 per game (space permitting)

INFO: dodgeball4ever.com

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